|Nicholas Velie Van Patten
Part III: Tragedy
Tragedy struck on September 18, 1857, when Nicholas V. Van Patten lost his
wife Sarah to "Dropsy". Following the death of his wife, his business began to
suffer greatly. He shut himself in his workshop; business was neglected; his
confidence in mankind was abused; his generosity imposed on; as a necessary
result, his possessions slipped from his grasp and finally, while he was away in
Virginia, looking after a gallant son disabled for life in the 2nd Battle of Manassa,
his remaining property was sold by foreclosure of mortgage and he was left
homeless and penniless.
With superb moral courage he then bought 25 acres of land near-by, built a little
cottage and added to it a workroom and here kept on working for his big
He and Dr. J.P. Barrett, of Abbeville, a scientist, were lifetime friends. The Dr.
once sent him a message, that when he completed his machine he claimed that
the first use to make it was that they were to take a trip to the moon. Laying
aside his notions about perpetual motion, Nicholas would rank high as an
intelligent man. His three business trips to England added much to his
information. On his third trip he was in the employ of Gen. Green's
grandchildren to put up a factory near Nashville, Tennessee. He was sometimes
censured for his religious views, being called a Universalist, but he remedied that
when he and his wife joined the Cedar Grove Baptist Church by experience on
May 6, 1854.
A letter was witten to his father by Gen.George Washington. The late
Honorable Simpson Bobo saw the letter and urged Nicholas to make a present of
it to Wofford College. He permitted the letter to go to the college for inspection
but it was unfortunately lost. Nicholas had resided in different places; Lowell,
MA, Utica, NY and Bordertown, NJ. At Bordertown he became familiar with
Joseph Bonaparte, ex-King of Spain. He said that when the ex-King would wish
to go over to Philadelphia on a shopping expidition, he would take 28 carriages
along with him and had nobody to ride in them but his daughter and himself, 27
of them empty with the exception of drivers.
Nicholas hardly ever left his shop in his latter years, except once in ten years to
go to the ballot-box 5 miles off, to vote the Democratic ticket. This patriotic
duty cost him trouble and pain, as he had no means of conveyance of his own
and in addition to the burdens and infirmities of old age, he had a dislocated hip,
caused by a fall, in consequence of which he had to go on crutches. His
appearance was venerable, his features were of classic mold, his heart was true
and warm and his eyes were bright with fires of genius. He was a gentleman, a
patriot, a philanthropist and a devoted Christian. Nicholas Van Patten had the
reputation of having no superior in the mechanic arts.
Within the sound of the falls he loved and owned, at the age of 85, unbeaten and
unconquerable and working to the last, death removed him from his sorrows and
misfortunes and experiences of thwarted ambitions. And still within sound of the
falling water over the rocks of Van Patten Shoals on the yellow Enoree, he
sleeps his last mortal sleep in the little churchyard far, far from the region of his
wealthy Dutch family.